Kopan Course No. 28 (1995): Audio and Transcripts

By Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche
Kathmandu, Nepal 1995 (Archive #1019)

These teachings were given by Lama Thubten Zopa Rinpoche at the Twenty-Eighth Kopan Meditation Course, held at Kopan Monastery, Nepal, in November 1995. Included are oral transmissions of the Heart Sutra, the Thirty-five Buddhas Confession Prayer, and Pabongka Rinpoche's Heart-Spoon [now revised and renamed The Heart's Utmost Need].

Download or listen online to the audio recordings of Lectures 1-3 and 6-9, and read along with the transcript. You may also download the entire transcript in a pdf file.

Lecture Three: The Compassion Buddha's Mantra

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To mention a little bit the benefits of reciting the mantra of the Compassion Buddha, just to mention one or two things from yesterday's introduction. What I mentioned yesterday was the basic, fundamental meaning of result-yana, the vehicle of the result. That didn't contain the particularly important, greatest skills of the highest tantra, those important points, how practicing highest tantra makes to achieve full enlightenment in a brief lifetime of degenerated time. Those parts were not mentioned.

One way to understand why the secret mantra, vajrayana is called the result vehicle and the paramitayana is called the vehicle of cause.

Even the highest tantra practice, the meditation on chakras, the wind, drops, and so forth, no matter if it is the highest or most secret, whether it is called the graduate completion stage or log chen, meaning the highest; probably there may be different explanations of what it means, however, the ultimate meaning, the highest, the means of actualizing the clear light and the extremely subtle mind, the wisdom of non-dual bliss and voidness.

Without the cause, without the attitude, if the mind that is practicing tantra is not qualified by renunciation of samsara, bodhicitta and emptiness, which I explained in the lam-rim teachings, which is explained in the paramitayana path, in the sutra, then the mind is not qualified to practice tantra. If it is not produced by any of these positive pure thoughts, then in practicing the highest tantra, whether it is dzog chen or log chen or whatever, there is danger, it even can become a cause of the lower realms.

There is danger, for example, without renunciation—which means renunciation of this life—the mind that practices is not free, is not a healthy, peaceful or free mind, a mind free from the attachment clinging to this life, so one practices without renouncing attachment clinging to this life. Without renunciation, then with the highest tantra, which one practices, instead of obtaining liberation and enlightenment, that meditation cannot even become a cause of attaining happiness in the life after this, even good rebirth in the next life…

… as there happened many stories in the lam.rim teachings. Without lam.rim the practice of tantra becomes dangerous. Generally somebody who likes very much to practice tantra, who is very interested to practice tantra, it is extremely important, I think, that person should have a very strong practice of lam-rim. Otherwise, even one's own fundamental practice can be an obstacle. It can become obstacle to practice the three higher trainings, the higher training of morality and so forth. To practice higher tantra, then, one needs very strong lam-rim, so that one can practice tantra without danger, without obstacles and one can complete the realization of the tantra path. With the support, the foundation, of lam-rim, the tantra path can be completed. The tantra path then becomes cause to achieve enlightenment. As it is practiced with the lam-rim, bodhicitta, it is directed toward enlightenment. So like this.

Those who like very much to practice the highest tantra, I think it's very important, that needs strong renunciation. In order for the practice not to become obstacle, I think you need strong lam.rim, renunciation and, if possible, on top of that bodhicitta; at least this, for it to be able to become the pure practice of tantra. In other words, without lam-rim, without the renunciation of samsara, the practice of tantra cannot become even Dharma. The individual person's practice of tantra cannot even become Dharma without total renunciation, at least renunciation of this life.

Any actions of body, speech or mind, even reciting prayers, even meditating on the mind, even looking at the mind, mind watching the mind, mind concentrating on the mind, even that meditation, which is regarded as very secret and profound in some other traditions, even including the mind watching the mind, mind focused on the mind, even including that meditation and reciting prayers, if they are done with the thought of the eight world dharma, attachment, the thought seeking happiness for this life, to get power, or to be healthy, to have long life.

Not healthy so that you benefit others, not with that thought; to have power so that you can benefit others, to have long life so that you can benefit others; to have wealth so that you can benefit others—nothing like this, but so that you can be happy; to be healthy so that you can be comfortable. If the reason behind is to benefit others, of course that is a completely different motivation. But here, seeking all this with a self-cherishing mind and the attachment clinging to this life, to achieve fame, to be famous or to collect many disciples, the basic motivation seeking happiness for oneself, happiness in this life.

Even the action of doing prayers, even if it is the Buddha's teachings, words; even such a meditation, not only watching, not only meditating on breath, even the mind watching, concentrating on the mind, looking at the mind. Of course, no question if you're meditating on the ultimate nature of the mind, there is no question, that's meditating on emptiness. But the conventional nature of the mind, just the mind watching the mind, without renunciation, without lam-rim, meditating on these things without lam-rim, even these actions, even these meditations don't become Dharma. Even these actions don't become Dharma without lam-rim. With the mind doing this meditation, if it's not lam-rim, if it's not possessed by the thought of renunciation, not even renunciation of this life, which means it’s done with the thought of the eight world dharmas, as I mentioned before, then even such as these meditations, or action of reciting prayers, do not become Dharma. It doesn't become Dharma, doesn't become virtue.

Even though it has benefit, due to the power of the words, the mantras and the words have the power to have long life, even though by their power you can have long life, you can cure disease, have wealth and so forth, even you get those benefits but your action does not become Dharma. It is similar to taking medicine—you can cure the disease, but doesn't mean your action taking medicine becomes Dharma, if that mind is not the thought of lam-rim, neither the thought of renunciation or bodhicitta or mindfulness on emptiness, thought of the right view.

One can spend many years or a whole life watching the breath, or the mind focusing on the mind, the mind watching, concentrating on the mind, but the mind that does that meditation is without lam-rim. If one doesn't know how to practice Dharma, or what is the definition of Dharma, there is the great danger one can waste the whole life. One can waste a whole life believing, “I am practicing Dharma, I am retreating. I have been meditating so many years.” Actually it has all been kind of hollow; due to ignorance it has cheated one's own life.

The only proper way to practice tantra, the correct way without danger is with the lam-rim, with the preliminary, the mind possessed by lam-rim: renunciation, bodhicitta and emptiness. Therefore, tantra is called result. Tantra is called the vehicle of result and the paramitayana is called vehicle of the cause.

Comparatively, it is very good, it is very fortunate, it is very good to have an interest in meditation and attempt to do practice, attempt to meditate, to have some calm or peace of mind. But as I mentioned before, if the mind doing the meditation doesn't have lam-rim, for example, it doesn’t have renunciation, then the mind watching the mind, mind concentrating on mind, such as this becomes just another cause of samsara. It just becomes another cause of samsara.

If there is no emphasis on motivation, what is Dharma, what is not Dharma, what is cause of happiness and what is not cause of happiness, if there is no emphasis, if there is no clarification of the point, the most important point—because what we are seeking is happiness, not suffering, if there is no emphasis, if there is no clarification in the teaching, if it is not conducted by the meditation teacher, there is a great risk for the students or disciples, there is danger to waste all their lives, even though they learn some meditation techniques. They spend their whole life in that.

His Holiness Zong Rinpoche used to say, regarding such as the meditation of stopping having thoughts, thinking nothing, Rinpoche used to say that the best thing you can achieve is the formless realm, the infinite space, infinite consciousness, then nothingness and then tip of the samsara. There are four categories of formless realm. Rinpoche said the highest you can achieve with that is the formless realm, the nothingness. So it means just another samsara realm. With that one might be reborn as an animal, very foolish, because you tried to stop your wisdom. Rinpoche used to say that one may reincarnate in the animal realm. The highest you can achieve on that is the formless realm, the nothingness.

That is very important advice, to cut our ignorance in the practice; to know and be able to discriminate the meditation practices, what is correct and what is wrong, and the results, the shortcomings and the benefits.

However, even seeking for a peaceful mind, if what the person is seeking is peace without delusions, then the action of meditation becomes Dharma. If the attitude is peace by being free from delusions, peace, peace, the mind to have peace, having stopped strong delusions rising, peace having stopped disturbing thoughts rising, then I think that is correct motivation. But if it's not like that, but peace according to attachment, the thought of worldly dharma, attachment clinging to this life’s peace, according to that it wouldn't be free from attachment. That wouldn't be free from delusions. The peace that attitude is seeking wouldn't be peace free from delusions.

Again here, if we analyze, we need to check even the motivation. Generally it is extremely good attempting to meditate just to have calm, to have calm and some peace in the life. It's very good because if the person didn't have that attitude there wouldn't be interest in meditation. Therefore, that's the way to start. It's very good but if we compare it to really pure action, meditation that becomes Dharma, which doesn't become cause for samsara, doesn't become cause of suffering, then, again, the motivation of the meditation has to be even finer, more pure. I bring up this point just to analyze. Just to check. Just to analyze.

Now, the definition of secret mantra: this “mantra” doesn't mean just the words we recite, OM MANI PADME HUM and so forth, it's not just that. One shouldn't just think secret “mantra.” The secret mantra is the quick path to enlightenment. We should think of the path, the tantra path, the quick path to enlightenment. Mantra means protecting the mind. Protecting the mind from what? Protecting the mind from the ordinary impure appearance, the ordinary concept. This is the basis in the lower tantra and also the foundation in the highest tantra. The highest tantra is generation stage and completion stage, to achieve enlightenment. This is the basic practice.

For practitioners of tantra the fundamental practice is, as I mentioned yesterday, one has to practice looking at whatever appears purely, the pure appearance. Like this one has to keep the mind in the pure mind. This is the basic thing, the basic thing in the practice of the generation stage—it is not the only thing in regards the generation state. That description doesn’t need to be explained at the moment. It can be said that if you stop the ordinary appearance of death, the ordinary appearance of intermediate stage and of rebirth, then one practices the result time dharmakaya, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya, practicing pure appearance.

However, in the second, completion stage, the meaning, the definition of mantra is ‘protecting the mind even from the ordinary subtle mind and wind.’ The completion path, the highest tantra completion path, how that holds the meaning of mantra, ‘protecting the mind,’ is that it protects from even the ordinary impure subtle mind and wind. It makes the subtle mind and wind completely pure by completing, actualizing the graduated path of the completion stage. So that is the meaning of mantra: achieving the clear light and illusory body and so forth; the meaning of mantra according to the completion stage.

Even the meaning of the word 'mantra' includes the whole path to enlightenment. Then why is it called 'secret'? Why is it called 'secret'? If one doesn't practice secretly—which means without revealing the tantra that one practices to those whose mind is unqualified—if you reveal to the unqualified, it becomes dangerous to oneself and others, one breaks samaya, which becomes a danger for one's realization and also a danger for the others. If one practices tantra secretly, then with the samaya it has much power and one will easily and quickly achieve the realizations of the Vajrayana, or secret mantra, path.

Now I shall mention a little bit about the benefits of mantra. Reciting the mantra even once has the power to purify even the four root falls. For example, a fully ordained monk who broke all the four basic vows, who received the four defeats: having killed a human being; telling lies—while one doesn't have realizations saying “I have realizations”; taking things not given; and sexual intercourse. Even this very heavy karma that causes reincarnation in the hot hell, in the very lowest of the eight levels, the unbearable suffering state, which lasts for one intermediate eon. Reciting the Compassion Buddha mantra, even once, has the power to purify even something this heavy, of somebody who has broken all these four precepts.

Of course, it depends on having strong faith in the benefit of mantra, then reciting with the motivation of bodhicitta and so forth. If the attitude is much more pure, then of course reciting the mantra even one time has greater and greater power of purification.

Also it purifies the five very heavy, uninterrupted karmas of killing the father, mother or an arhat, causing blood to flow from a Buddha, causing disunity among the Sangha, and so forth. By reciting seven times, the negative karma accumulated for one hundred lifetimes in the past gets purified. Reciting twenty-one times purifies 1000 eons of negative karma. If one recites 108 times, which means one mala, it has the power to purify 40000 eons of negative karma.

Of course no question, even an animal, at the time of death, if one recites the Compassion Buddha's mantra in their ear, then, right after the mind leaves the body, immediately they are able to reincarnate in the human or deva realms.

And also, it is mentioned, Chenrezig, Compassion Buddha himself promised, said this way, "May I not become enlightened if a person who always recite my mantra at the time of death ...", then there's some number mentioned but I don't remember exactly, "... doesn't get guided by all the buddhas. If that doesn't happen at the time of death, may I not become enlightened. If the wishes of a person who recites my mantra all the time don't become true, become actualized, may I not become enlightened." Compassion Buddha himself made that prayer or promise.

Any negative karma can get purified by reciting the Compassion Buddha's mantra, any heavy negative karma. There are many stories of people who engaged in different heavy negative karmas, and were advised by Chenrezig to recite Compassion Buddha's mantra, then were able to go to a pure land. Before, they were going to be reborn in the lower realms, then after having done much confession and recited many times the Compassion Buddha's mantra. There are many stories like that. By reciting this mantra, one accumulates merit like the sky, inconceivable merit.

It says that in the early morning when one gets up, if one recites 108 times with the proper Dharma motivation, one will receive ten benefits in this life.

1. All the time the body will be healthy, no disease.
2. You are always protected by devas and buddhas.
3. You will easily be able to find the means of living, material needs, wealth, food, jewels, clothing and so forth.
4. You will be able to subdue the enemy, the enemy's mind gets subdued, so that you don’t have fear.
5 . You will be respected by others. That means not only now, but also in the future.
6. You will achieve a higher caste, living in the ethics. This is according to countries that have a caste system, particularly in the east.
7 . You will be free from the danger of poisons, spirit harm and spirit possession.
8 . You will have a scented smell to the body. That means natural, it is not talking about the scented smell from bought perfume. It means a natural scented smell coming from the body.
9 . Everybody will be happy with you. Other people do not have bad thoughts towards you. There are no people saying hurtful or displeasing words.
10. You will be free from chronic or contagious diseases. You will get liberated from untimely death.

Then also you will achieve the four other qualities. At the time of death you will see Buddha. That time light comes from your body, not only light in the sky, light coming from the body. In Lhasa, there was one old mother, a beggar who spent her life reciting OM MANI PADME HUM. She lived a life begging but when she died in the street, white light came from her body, which is the definite proof that her consciousness went to the pure land. Her consciousness went to the pure land of Buddha.

In some of the pure lands one can become enlightened. HH Zong Rinpoche mentioned one Bhutanese family’s mother died so they invited Rinpoche to do po-wa, the special technique of transferring consciousness to the pure land. After Rinpoche did po-wa white light came from her head, which is a definite sign that the person went to the pure land.

Also at the time of death one receives offerings from devas.

Then, never, in any future life, does one go to the lower realms. One either reincarnates in the pure land or the realm of the happy migratory being. Once one has reincarnated in Amitabha Buddha’s pure land, the blissful realm Amitabha’s pure land, it is impossible from there to reincarnate in the lower realms. One may come back from there to the world to benefit others, to teach Dharma, to benefit others, but it’s impossible, from that time, to reincarnate in the lower realms.

One will achieve buddhas’ and bodhisattvas’ qualities, which lead to liberation and enlightenment.

Also, one will achieve fifteen benefits, of not experiencing the fifteen bad ways of dying, like dying due to famines, due to punishment by the king, due to poison, due to weapons in a war, or attacked by vicious animals such as a tiger or snake, and so forth. Or dying due to floods, drought or fire, due to car or airplane crash, or house burning, things like that. One won’t experience death due to the dangers of fire, water and so forth; then also one won’t die from being possessed or harmed by spirits. Also one won’t commit suicide, which is regarded as heavy negative karma. At the time of death, the mind won’t be distracted.

Wherever one reincarnates, it will be in countries where there is a Dharma king. That means there is Dharma in that country and freedom to practice Dharma. Like those Buddhist countries, such as Tibet in the past, when Tibet was independent, with the Dharma king, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is embodiment of Compassion Buddha. Where there was opportunity to practice the whole entire teaching of the Buddha. Preserved from so many years and actualized, numberless beings becoming enlightened. Because of that, now those high lamas, geshes and so forth, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, are able to spread the Dharma nowadays so much, even in the West; able to have the light of Dharma in places that have been dark for so long.

Always one will reincarnate in virtuous countries, where there are living arya beings. Where there are good, virtuous, perfect gurus, where one can find a perfect guru, virtuous friend.

One will have perfect organs. One will like virtue, having a very subdued mind, very subdued actions and equanimity. One will live in morality. One will have many servants or helpers and much wealth. Respected by others, whatever one needs one will receive, so one’s own wishes quickly succeed. Then one will have a happy mind.

Even the nagas and devas will guard you. You are able to see buddhas and able to realize the profound meaning, emptiness. And then you are able to generate compassion and bodhicitta to others, with tears flowing down, due to unsurpassable compassion. Remembering the qualities of the triple gem, the mind is so happy, having devotion to the triple gem, then able to develop wisdom. The mind is free from non-virtuous thoughts and one has devotion to the scriptures.

One will reincarnate like this again and again, in such a rebirth, having all these qualities, having received all these good things. (Rinpoche laughs) (Laughter)

I often think of the reason my mother was able to reincarnate as a human being who, even at child time, aged three or four years, was able to remember much of the past life, recognize all her belongings, things she used in everyday life; able to recognize all the relatives, all the family immediately when they met for the first time, able to recognize without any shyness.

Last time when she was here, for three months, two nuns helped her go down to Boudhnath stupa, took care of her in that past life. When this incarnation came to the nunnery he was able to immediately recognize them and asked how they were. But he felt shy with the rest of the nuns, with whom he didn’t have any connection in the past, and didn’t talk to them.

However, one Sherpa man, who lives in Kathmandu, who was a very close friend of my mother, I don’t remember his name, when he heard, he stopped building his house and went to meet the incarnation of my mother, who was with my brother in his house in Kathmandu. As soon as this person, whose name was Myingma or Angku, I’m not sure exactly, sat down, and the incarnation’s mother served tea or wine or whatever, then the incarnation immediately mentioned his name. Immediately mentioned his name and touched heads. That person was an extremely close friend, who my mother liked very much. This Sherpa man immediately grabbed the incarnation and cried. It was a shock to him; he didn’t expect this incarnation would remember his name.

According to my own understanding, being able to reincarnate as a human being and having such a clear memory, is because in her past life she used to recite OM MANI PADME HUM; she told me she used to recite 50,000 OM MANI PADME HUM every day. She told me herself. The year she passed away she said, “Now I cannot recite that much,” but in the past she had been reciting 50,000 every day. So half of 100,000 she’d been reciting every day. I think the recitation of the Compassion Buddha’s mantra has the benefit to have a clear mind, to be able to remember the past and see the future. I think having such a clear mind is a result of having recited Compassion Buddha’s mantra so much.

Being able to reincarnate again as a human being was because previously she took ordination from His Holiness Ling Rinpoche. There are maybe still some among those old Sangha, even here, who took ordination at the same time in Bodhgaya. So my own thinking is that is the result of those two, pure morality and having recited the Compassion Buddha’s mantra.

If one has a prayer wheel then it’s good to recite mantra and turn the prayer wheel at the same time. The main purpose is to develop compassion within one’s mind, to be able to have realization of bodhicitta, the door of the Mahayana path to enlightenment, the source of happiness and success for oneself and for all the numberless sentient beings. When I remember, I try to do 6000 with the prayer wheel, which is meant to be dedicated for the six realm beings, supposed to dedicate for them; when I don’t remember, then not even one time OM MANI PADME HUM. (Rinpoche laughs)

Now, we offer the torma to the interferers to grant the conditions to receive initiation [of Chenrezig]. There are outlines to mention about the initiation, however now the time has become shorter so we will just leave that part.

I’m not going through the details about the dreams, the good dreams, the bad dreams, inauspicious dreams, whatever. I’m not going through those details as it takes time. In case inauspicious dreams happened, think that by giving the torma to the interferers the obstacles are dispelled; one should generate faith.

Also, whatever appeared in the dream is appearance of the hallucinated mind. Something real appeared in the view of that mind but in reality it is not there.

Same thing in our daily life, in the daytime, the way everything appears as real, something really there. ‘There’ means on the base; something real not only in that place but something real on that base. There’s an I on the aggregates, there’s I on the aggregates: that is wrong, that is hallucination. There is table on the base of the table: that is hallucination. So something is there—that is hallucination, that something is there on the base. There is a table on the base; there is table on the base of the table—that is hallucination. There is I on these aggregates, there is I on these aggregates, believing that I is labeled on these aggregates, so there’s I on this aggregates—that is hallucination. I is labeled on these aggregates and so there’s I on this aggregates—that is hallucination.

Anything that appears to us, that we believe is there, all this, such-and-such is there, all this is hallucination. False, all these are false. When we analyze, it is not there, nothing exists there. Nothing exists there on that base. Even the base doesn’t exist on that base, the base that is labeled, which is labeled relating to the other base, its own base.

When do not analyze, when we let our mind be hallucinated, it looks like it is there, but the minute we start to analyze whether it is there or not, whether the table is on the base or not, even the merely labeled table you cannot find on the base of the table, so how can you find the real table? The table appearing not merely labeled by the mind, this real table—if you cannot find even the merely labeled table, the merely labeled table that exists in your room, which exists in this gompa but which you can't find on the base of the table, on the group of the collection of parts; one cannot find even the merely labeled table, so therefore how you can find the real table, that appearing as not merely labeled by the mind? No way; that doesn’t exist, neither on the base or anywhere.

Anything that appears to us as if it is there, all these are false view. All these are hallucination, including I, the self: there is I on these aggregates. Including that there is I on these aggregates, in this body or on these aggregates, we believe there’s I on these aggregates, on these aggregates which are the base, something which can be found, something which is findable. That itself is mistaken view. Because when you look you cannot find, there.

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